Columnist Weary of How Arabs and Muslims are Portrayed in Western Games

A columnist for the United Arab Emirates-based Khaleej Times has penned an opinion piece examining the subject of how Western made games impact (and depict) Middle Easterners.

Aijaz Zaka Syed begins by noting that his son’s favorite games are of a violent nature, and typically originate “in the land of the free." Such games are shaped by “the simplistic, With-Us or-Against-Us doctrine propounded by, you know who.”

The author tries to remind his son that the action happening on the screen is “just a game,” and that “things are not what they seem to be in the movies and videogames,” but he worries about the impression the games might be having on his off spring.

Claiming that, “The distortion of the Middle Eastern reality has undergone a watershed change since 9/11,” the columnist says about recent war games:

The player controls American or broad Western coalition forces, while enemy units are controlled by the computer. The ‘enemy’ is portrayed with a set of broad, schematised attributes like head cover, loose clothes and dark skin etc. The narrative links the characters to “international terrorism and/or Islamist extremism.

He continues:

Predictably, the US and coalition soldiers are a collective paragon of virtue and humanised with names to help the gamer identify with the ‘good guys.’ And the enemy is a faceless, collectivised monster, often described as terrorist groups, insurgents and militants.

While the coalition is fighting for grand ideals like freedom, justice and democracy, the enemy is alien and not a ‘real’ soldier, removing the legitimacy of or justification for his actions. No attempt is made to explain or explore the motives of the ‘terrorists’.

Aijaz Zaka Syed believes that the representation of Arabs and Muslims in games has contributed to the divide between the West and such groups, as he asks, “Is it any wonder the Islam-West chasm continues to grow by the day?"

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